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Evidence of Spin-Orbital Angular Momentum Interactions in Relativistic Heavy-Ion Collisions


The first evidence of spin alignment of vector mesons (K^{*0} and ϕ) in heavy-ion collisions at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is reported. The spin density matrix element ρ_{00} is measured at midrapidity (|y|<0.5) in Pb-Pb collisions at a center-of-mass energy (sqrt[s_{NN}]) of 2.76 TeV with the ALICE detector. ρ_{00} values are found to be less than 1/3 (1/3 implies no spin alignment) at low transverse momentum (p_{T}<2  GeV/c) for K^{*0} and ϕ at a level of 3σ and 2σ, respectively. No significant spin alignment is observed for the K_{S}^{0} meson (spin=0) in Pb-Pb collisions and for the vector mesons in pp collisions. The measured spin alignment is unexpectedly large but qualitatively consistent with the expectation from models which attribute it to a polarization of quarks in the presence of angular momentum in heavy-ion collisions and a subsequent hadronization by the process of recombination.

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